Category Archives: Film noir
Four Film Noir Classics | A second helping of hard-boiled genre gems on Blu-ray from Arrow
Take a walk through the shadowy streets of American film noir in four atmospheric classics courtesy of Arrow.
In The Suspect (1944), a genial shopkeeper, Philip Marshall (Charles Laughton), is constantly nagged by his shrewish wife, Cora (Rosalind Ivan), while secretly yearning for a pretty young stenographer Mary Gray (Ella Raines). When Cora falls to her death, the police are suspicious, and Marshall’s neighbour (Henry Daniell) sees a chance for blackmail. This superb Edwardian-set thriller is a fascinating character study, especially Laughton’s performance in which he reigns in his usual scenery-chewing to give a subtle, compelling turn as the film’s unlikely ‘villain’. You can also see that director Robert Siodmak was beginning to hone his noir credentials here, which he’d perfect with 1946’s The Killers.
The Sleeping City (1950) sees an undercover policeman (Richard Conte) investigating a murder and narcotics racketeering at New York’s Bellevue Hospital with the help of a nurse (Coleen Gray) whom he finds falling in love with. Directed by George Sherman, this tense, semi-documentary thriller remains one of the few films of the era to be shot entirely on location, including many scenes in and around Bellevue.
In Thunder on the Hill (1951), convicted murderer Valerie Carns (Ann Blyth) is being transported for execution when a flood strands her and her guards at a convent hospital, where Sister Mary Bonaventure (Claudette Colbert) becomes convinced of Valerie’s innocence and sets out to find the real killer. Three years shy of becoming the King of Hollywood melodramas, Douglas Sirk made a number of noir thrillers, and this is one of the best. Although it’s a bit studio-bound and the killer’s identity pretty obvious from the outset, it does boast nice turns from Colbert as the sleuthing nun, the wonderful Gladys Cooper as the Mother Superior, and making his Hollywood debut, Australian actor Michael Pate, who’s servant character is key in solving the whodunnit.
In Six Bridges to Cross (1955), streetwise delinquent Jerry Florea (played by Sal Mineo) is shot and wounded by rookie policeman Eddie Gallagher (George Nader) while fleeing the scene of a robbery. Despite this, the two develop a friendship as Eddie and his wife (Julie Adams) take Jerry under their wing, trying to keep him on the straight and narrow. As an adult, Jerry (now played by Tony Curtis) marries and seems to settle down until an armoured security company across the street from him is robbed of $2.5m dollars. Directed by Joseph Pevney with cinematography by Oscar-winner William H Daniels, this crime noir, inspired by the 1950 Great Brink’s Robbery in Boston, Massachusetts, marks Sal Mineo’s screen debut and gives Tony Curtis a meaty character to play (although his accent reminded me of the cartoon character Top Cat at times).
This showcase of lesser-known noir classics features sterling performances from a host of screen greats, as well as taut direction, stunning cinematography, and superb screenwriting from the likes of Oscar Saul (A Streetcar Named Desire), Jo Eisinger (Gilda, Night and the City), Andrew Holt (In a Lonely Place) and Sydney Boehm (The Big Heat).
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of all four films
• Original lossless mono audio on all films
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on all films
• Audio commentaries by scholars and critics Farran Smith-Nehme (The Suspect), Imogen Sara Smith (The Sleeping City), Josh Nelson (Thunder on the Hill) and Samm Deighan (Six Bridges to Cross)
• It Had to be Done, author and scholar Alan K. Rode on the career of director Robert Siodmak
• The Real Deal, author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas looks at realism and reality in The Sleeping City
• José Arroyo on Thunder on the Hill, a new appreciation by the esteemed film scholar and critic
• Style and Place, film critic Jon Towlson examines the work of cinematographer William H. Daniels
• Vintage radio play versions of The Suspect and Thunder on the Hill starring Charles Laughton, Ella Raines, Claudette Colbert and Barbara Rush
• Theatrical Trailers
• Poster and stills galleries
• Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow
• Double-sided fold-out posters for each film featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow
• Hardback collector’s book featuring new writing on the films by film critics Kat Ellinger, Philip Kemp and Jon Towlson
This Gun for Hire | The stylish 1942 film noir out on Blu-ray
From Eureka Entertainment comes the 1942 film-noir This Gun for Hire starring Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar and Alan Ladd, presented on Blu-ray from a 4K scan.
Lake plays nightclub chanteuse Ellen, and her detective beau Michael (Preston) is on the hunt for assassin-for-hire Philip Raven (Ladd), who has just scored a hit on a chemist with a secret formula. When Raven’s employer Gates (Cregar) double-crosses him, Raven seeks revenge – but dangerous forces are waiting in the shadows…
Adapted from Graham Greene’s 1936 novel (titled A Gun for Sale in the UK), This Gun for Hire is a stylish crime noir that became Ladd’s breakout role and featured Lake giving one of her most iconic performances. Such was the success of their onscreen chemistry, they would team up for the same year’s adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key before this one was even released. A winning combination of genuine suspense, taut storytelling and standout performances.
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a 4K scan of the original film elements
• Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio
• Audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
• This Gun for Hire: Lux Radio Theater adaptation starring Alan Ladd and Joan Blondell
• This Gun for Hire: The Screen Guild Theater radio adaptation starring Alan Ladd Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake
• Theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Barry Forshaw, and Craig Ian Mann
Criss Cross | Robert Siodmak’s must-see film noir classic on Blu-ray
Obsessive love, robbery and murder collide in Robert Siodmak’s classic 1949 film noir suspense tale. Burt Lancaster plays working-class armoured car driver Steve Thompson, who returns to Los Angeles after a few years away hoping to reunite with his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne DeCarlo) – but she’s now married to local mobster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea).
Unable to stay away from each other, Steve and Anna begin an affair – only to be discovered by Dundee. But Steve manages to convince Dundee that he only wanted to get close to Anna to get his help in robbing an upcoming payroll shipment. Dundee falls for the ruse, which triggers a series of deadly events…
Packed with suspense, a tight script and direction, a sterling cast (especially DeCarlo), moody monochrome cinematography that makes effective use of the downtown Los Angeles locations, plus a rousing Miklós Rózsa score, this is film noir masterpiece that’s ripe for a revisit. Watch out for Tony Curtis making his screen debut (as Anthony Curtis) and prepare to be shocked by the very bleak ending.
Criss Cross gets a new 4K restoration for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK as part of Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinema Series and includes the following features…
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray, from a new 4K scan of the original nitrate negative
• Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio
• Audio commentary by film author Lee Gambin, and actress Rutanya Alda
• Video piece on the film by film scholar Adrian Martin
• Theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by film historian Kat Ellinger; an essay by Adam Batty; archival writing and imagery
Black Angel | This 1940s film noir starring Peter Lorre is ripe for rediscovery
When the beautiful singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling) is slain in her chic apartment, the men in her life become suspects. There is Martin Blair (Dan Duryea), her alcoholic musician ex-husband, nursing a broken heart; there is the shady nightclub owner Marko (Peter Lorre) who has been sneaking around her place, and there is Kirk Bennett (John Phillips), the adulterer who found his mistress’s dead body and fled the scene. When Bennett is convicted and sentenced to death, his long-suffering wife Catherine (June Vincent) joins forces with the heartbroken pianist Martin Blair to uncover the truth…
Directed by Hollywood veteran Roy William Neill (best known for his 11 Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone), 1946’s Black Angel is a film noir, adapted from a novel by the acclaimed crime writer Cornell Woolrich, that is ripe for rediscovery, boasting a suspenseful narrative, strong performances and atmospheric, meticulously lit cinematography.
It is presented here in a new restoration by Arrow Films, with a host of extras.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• New audio commentary by the writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode
• A Fitting End, video appreciation by film historian Neil Sinyard
• Original trailer
• Gallery of original stills and promotional materials
• Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options
• Illustrated collector’s booklet (first pressing only) featuring new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp
The Woman in the Window | Fritz Lang’s influential 1940s film noir on Blu-ray
From Eureka Entertainment comes Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window (1944), starring Edward G Robinson and Joan Bennett, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK.
Robinson plays Richard Wanley, a psychiatrist biding his time while his wife and children are on vacation when he encounters Alice (Joan Bennett), who bears an uncanny resemblance to the subject of a portrait he is fascinated by. When Richard and Alice retire to her home, her wealthy, jealous boyfriend intrudes, and is killed after a struggle.
Alice convinces Richard to cover up the crime, but as Richard’s district attorney friend (Raymond Massey) investigates and the boyfriend’s bodyguard (Dan Duryea) begins to apply pressure to Richard, the walls begin to close in…
The Woman in the Window is a fantastic thriller made by Fritz Lang at the end of a very profitable decade in Hollywood, years which had already yielded Fury, You Only Live Twice, The Return of Frank James and Hangmen Also Die.
Considered as one of the most important examples of the genre, it was a triumph for Lang, writer/producer Nunnally Johnson (The Grapes of Wrath), and Edward G Robinson, and remains a classic nail-biter.
Bennett is in top form as the slinky femme fatale, while Duryea is at his silkily treacherous best as the blackmailer. Bennett and Duryea re-teamed with Robinson and Lang the following year for the equally exciting Scarlet Street.
Available to order from: Amazon
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
• LPCM audio (original mono presentation)
• Optional English subtitles
• Video essay by critic David Cairns
• Audio Commentary by Film Historian Imogen Sara Smith, author of In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City
• Original theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new essays; alongside rare archival imagery
Laura (1944) | Eureka Entertainment presents the essential film noir on Blu-ray
Director Otto Preminger’s Laura is one of the greatest and most essential film noirs of all time, and now the deliciously well-crafted murder mystery is heading to Blu-ray as part of Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinema Series from 14 January 2019.
Police detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is drawn into Manhattan high society as he investigates the death of career girl Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), apparently gunned down in her own apartment. The suspects are numerous, led by effete, snobbish columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), and Laura’s philandering fiancé Shelby (Vincent Price), who’s also been cavorting with Laura’s wealthy aunt (Judith Anderson). McPherson begins to fall in love with Laura through a portrait in her home and the memories relayed by those who knew her… just as it becomes apparent that even the basic facts of the case might not be what they seemed.
This 1944 murder mystery classic from director Otto Preminger (replacing Rouben Mamoulian) has grown in stature over the years, with its hypnotic mixture of doomed romantic obsession, dizzying intrigue, and fatalistic cynicism marking it as essential noir.
Peppered with eternally quotable dialogue (“I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbours’ children devoured by wolves.”), sumptuous, Oscar-winning cinematography by Joseph LaShelle and David Raksin’s haunting theme music, Laura is an undeniable American masterpiece.
Available to order from: Amazon and Zavvi
- 1080p presentation on Blu-ray of both the extended and original theatrical versions of the film
- LPCM mono Audio
- Optional English SDH subtitles
- Audio commentary by composer David Raksin and film professor Jeanine Basinger
- Audio commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer
- Laura: The Lux Radio Theater broadcasts Two radio adaptations of Laura from 1945 [59 mins] and 1954 [57 mins], starring Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney and Vincent Price in the 1945 version, and Gene Tierney and Victor Mature in the 1954 version
- Laura: The Screen Guild Theater broadcast Adaptation of Laura from radio anthology series, The Screen Guild Theater, originally aired in 1945 [30 mins], starring Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney and Clifton Webb
- Laura: The Ford Theater broadcast A further radio adaptation of Laura from 1948, starring Virginia Gilmore and John Larkin
- A Tune for Laura: David Raksin Remembers an archival interview with the renowned composer
- The Obsession an archival featurette on Laura
- Deleted Scene
- PLUS: A collector s booklet featuring a new essay by Phil Hoad, alongside a selection of rare archival imagery
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid | Steve Martin’s film noir spoof was released on this day in 1982
Paying homage to classic Forties film noirs, 1982’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid starred Steve Martin (giving one of his best performances) as the Philip Marlowe-styled gumshoe Rigby Reardon, who is hired by Juliet Forrest (Rachel Ward) to investigate the death of her father, a noted scientist, philanthropist and cheesemaker…
Originally released on 21 May 1982, the film is irresistibly silly and very funny (aside from the misogyny of course, which was typical of films of the era). But the best thing about the comedy is how it cleverly intercut 19 classic movies into its spoof adventure. Whilst writing the film, Carl Reiner and George Gipe spent countless hours looking for specific shots and ‘listening for a line that was ambiguous enough but had enough meat in it to contribute a line’, while 85 sets were constructed in order toe edit in and merge the old film footage.
Then, of course, there was that amazing cast of Hollywood greats who ended up being Martin’s co-star. Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, Burt Lancaster, Humphrey Bogart, Eva Gardner, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Charles Laughton, Joan Crawford Veronica Lake, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Fred McMurray, James Cagney and Vincent Price.
Check them all out here.
Available on Blu-ray in the UK from Fabulous Films, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid really makes you want to revisit the classic films spliced into the light-hearted spoof. And here they all are.
Johnny Eager (1941)
Keeper of the Flame (1942) (uncredited)
This Gun for Hire (1942)
The Glass Key (1942)
Double Indemnity (1944)
The Lost Weekend (1945)
The Killers (1946)
The Big Sleep (1946)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
I Walk Alone (1947)
Dark Passage (1947)
Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
White Heat (1949)
The Bribe (1949)
In a Lonely Place (1950)
The Blue Dahlia (1945) | Raymond Chandler’s only original screenplay is a hard-boiled film noir classic must-see
The classic 1940s noir thriller, The Blue Dahlia, stars Alan Ladd as discharged naval flier Johnny Morrison who returns home to Los Angeles to discover his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) has been unfaithful. When she is found murdered, Johnny becomes the prime suspect and promptly goes on the run.
The always gorgeous Veronica Lake then turns up as Joyce, the wife of nightclub owner Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva) – who was Helen’s lover – and with the help of Johnny’s army pals, Buzz (William Bendix) and George (Hugh Beaumont), tries to clear his name…
Crime writer Raymond Chandler scored an Oscar nomination for his lean and mean original screenplay. It was the only one he ever wrote specifically for a movie and one in which he completed while ‘drunk’ when production was speeded up on the film because Paramount studio bosses feared Ladd would be re-inducted into the real-life US army.
The film, which was directed by George Marshall (of Destry Rides Again fame), also marked the third pairing of Ladd and Veronica Lake following 1942’s This Gun for Hire (which made Ladd a star) and The Glass Key (also available from Arrow Academy). It was released to great acclaim and has since become a must-see film noir classic.
William Bendix is a standout as Ladd’s shell-shocked war buddy who keeps complaining of ‘monkey-music’ in his head and the complicated story – all set in Hollywood’s decadent night club strip – keeps twisting brilliantly until the final cop-out ending (that was also done to placate the US war office).
A radio play version of the film was broadcast on 21 April 1949 as part of the The Screen Guild Theater, starring Ladd and Lake in their original film roles.
The Blue Dahlia is out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Academy in the UK. The extras include selected scene commentary and an introduction from author Frank Krutnik, the 1949 radio play, original trailer, gallery and promotional materials. Plus, a collector’s booklet (first pressing only).
Hangmen Also Die! (1943) | A must-see wartime melodrama for all Fritz Lang fans
At the height of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, four German exiles in Hollywood – director Fritz Lang, playwright Bertolt Brecht (earning his only US credit here as Bert Brecht), composer Hanns Eisler and actor Hans Heinrich von Twardowski – pooled their efforts into Hangmen Also Die!, an important historical film from 1943 about the Czech resistance, which gets a 2k restoration release from Arrow in the UK from 29 August.
Taking as its starting point, the assassination of the real-life Nazi ‘Reich-Protector’ of Czechoslovakia, Reinhard Heydrich (Twardowski), Lang’s studio-bound suspenser sees an act of kindness by the courageous Marsha (Anna Lee) – hiding the culprit (a deadpan Brian Donlevy) from the Gestapo – result in her professor father (Walter Brennan) and 400 Czech compatriots facing execution unless Donlevy’s resistance fighter is turned over…
Shot in atmospheric black and white by the legendary James Wong Howe, and featuring a Oscar-nominated score from Eisler, Lang’s anti-Nazi gift to wartime American cinemagoers is a masterful blend of war picture, film noir and political thriller. It may loose points for its overly melodramatic Hollywood treatment of the story (all the non-Nazi’s have American accents and Twardowski’s Heydrich comes off like Colonel Klink in Hogan’s Heroes), but its revolutionary spirit shines through.
Eagle-eyed cinephiles can watch out for Dracula‘s Dwight Frye as one of the hostages (it was his last film role before a heart attack cut short his life aged 44 in 1943), and hear the unmistakable growl of Cul-de-sac‘s Lionel Stander as the getaway driver.
The Arrow release features a 2012 2k restored print by Pinewood from the Cohen Film Collection, and includes an audio commentary by film historian Richard Peña, along with an interview with author Robert Gerwarth on Reinhard Heydrich, plus newsreel footage, restoration comparison anda trailer. The first pressing of this release comes with a collector’s booklet.
A must-have for fans of Fritz Lang fans and lovers of wartime cinema.